One frequent question I am asked as a newlywed is:
What are you going to do now that the wedding is over?
A reasonable question—after all, the wedding planning took a lot of time. And so a bride may wonder what she is going to spend her time on now. But that’s not all we mean when we ask this question. We don’t want to know simply what the woman will do with her time. We want to know what she will live for. Behind such a question is a little bit of fear, concern, and pity that perhaps she doesn’t have as much to live for. Indeed, this is the perennial fear we have of settling down. That once in the happily ever after, things get boring. Things get routine. Things aren’t so happily ever after anymore.
And yet, even though we fear such an ending, we women aren’t very good at avoiding the fairy tale, and through the bitterest of hearts it continues to pierce. So we fall in love, we marry, and then we brace ourselves for what we expect to be a downward spiral and a steady loss of the joy we had on our wedding day. Why do we do this? How is it that we could be so attracted to something and yet seemingly so disappointed by it? And why do we keep coming back to it?
Perhaps it is because the whole process is engrained in us. We need it. We need the fairy tale. But perhaps the problem is that we are more in love with the fairy tale itself than we are with the happily ever after. Perhaps the problem is not that the happily ever after doesn’t come, but rather, that we don’t know how to properly accept it and build it and live it.
The thing is, weddings are all about hope, and women are very good at hoping. They’re so good at it that they get drunk on it. You can see women drunk on hope whenever you go into a bridal store, or even when you watch girls shopping for their prom dresses. You see them drunk on hope when they plan parties. When they wrap Christmas gifts for their children. Hope intoxicates us. Hope is a beautiful wonderful thing. Hope presupposes happily-ever-after. Hope presupposes Heaven. And there is nothing quite as hopeful as a bride turning the corner to walk down the aisle to her groom. This presupposition lifts us to a high like nothing else. And so naturally, when we come down from it, we may feel empty and confused.
The danger arises, though, when we allow that emptiness to frighten us and when we, in our fear, turn to fill it with something that shouldn’t be going there. We may fill it by looking only to the past. We may fill it with enough new projects to distract ourselves. We may fill it with our own self-indulgences. Whatever we may fill it with, we will end up blocking out that which was supposed to come in its place. In the process of blocking out, we become embittered and unable to see or recognize or accept the happily ever after that was intended for us. In getting caught up so much in the joy of hope, we forget hope’s purpose. We forget the reason we hope. And so when love stands ready at the gates to flood into our hearts and our home, we stand closed off and turned around so that it cannot enter. Too many times, we women get caught up in the excitement of hope and so when love is not exciting (as true and deep love usually is not,) we panic. When the butterflies stop fluttering in our stomachs, we become sad, thinking they have left for good, when really, they lay resting because they have finally found the place to which they were flying.
A few years ago, I decided I needed to learn to love Christmas Day. For years I had become depressed on that day for the same reason that so many women feel empty after their weddings. Christmas had come. The Eve had ended, and along with it, my hope. But how silly I was! For when my hope ended, it did so because I had found what I hoped for. I had to relearn how to bask in the love and joy of Christmas Day. For so long, I had been so upset about the hope ending that I missed everything else. I had to learn to love what I hoped for more than the hoping. And it wasn’t until I could learn this that I began to fully love both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
And so it is with the bride. A bride is full of hope. But a wife is full of love. And although hope is exciting, love is, well, everything. Love is the only reason hope is worth anything. So when hope may not feel as exciting, or when we no longer have to hope, we cannot let that fact embitter us and shield us from love. That would be a tragedy. That is the only real way we can ruin our chances at a happily ever after. For we determine how happy it is according to how much we choose to love. But we can never choose to love until we learn to let our hopes be fulfilled. It takes surrender. It takes the willingness to be content. It takes a willingness to be empty for a little bit in order to be filled up with something even more precious and joyous and wonderful. But it is worth it. After all, it is the whole reason we hoped in the first place.
So then, perhaps the answer to the question, what are you going to do now that the wedding is over, ought not be simply a list of projects or tasks but instead,
Well, now that the wedding is over, I’m going to be a wife. And I’m going to live happily ever after.
Sometimes we may be afraid to say this. We worry people won’t believe it. We worry that we don’t believe it. But it can be as true as you choose to love just like a wedding can be as beautiful as you choose to hope or a home as happy as you choose to make it. So do not be afraid. Our hopes are not unfounded. Love does satisfy. Love does fulfill. Love does save. All we must do is allow it to.